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3-16-2010 @ 4:20PM
Let me start by saying that I think gold selling legal or otherwise would be a bad idea. Having said that, I'm not a lawyer or law student. I don't even play a lawyer on TV. So, could someone please explain how Blizzard selling gold would be different from any other micro-transaction game?
3-16-2010 @ 4:33PM
Because selling things like pets, character slots, and so on is /not/ linking two economies together. Once you link a virtual economy to a real one, then suddenly regulations come into play, because it is no longer purely virtual. The article already does a good job explaining what happens when an economy becomes 'real' and enters the realm of regulation.Once you can readily convert Azeroth gold into USD and vice versa, it is no longer an isolated economy, but one that has a value in USD, and thus, 'real money' is flowing through it.There aren't many legal precedents here either, so I can understand Blizzard not wanting to be the guy who winds up turning a game into a tax nightmare.
3-16-2010 @ 4:31PM
Because Blizzard is a) a very well-known company, and b) based in the US. Blizzard entering the RMT business would be such massive news (and probably result in such massive cash flow) that the people who've been watching to see whether virtual property is worth government intervention would be out of the gate like hounds after a fox.
3-16-2010 @ 4:40PM
Is there any micro-transaction currently in game that provides your character with something that can be then traded off your account? No? There's your answer.
3-16-2010 @ 4:45PM
@EBGreenGold is different from the other transactions because unlike the in-game pets; Gold can be traded to other players.
3-17-2010 @ 9:40AM
Here's the thing -- It wouldn't be different. The author uses the example of Second Life to argue that Blizzard would experience the same potential lawsuits as Linden Labs. The problem with her assertion is that Linden Labs advertizes, and provides, a means for users to convert their Second Life money into real money, i.e., you can freely sell your Second Life "income" for dollars. That is the fundamental premise that, once debunked, makes the author's analysis go completely astray. Assuming (and I think rightfully so) that Blizzard does NOT go further than sales of gold to customers, like the sales of vanity pets today, then there is no taxable "income" in Warcraft gold from other sources like quests.Now, lets look at the author's argument that Blizzard would somehow be more responsible for "safekeeping" user account "assets" if they merely sold gold. That argument likewise fails. In the current situation, Blizzard already safekeeps assets sold to players, such as the vanity pets and mounts, and the account itself. A market in user accounts already exists on third party websites. Any user can find out the market value of their account, and if Blizzard is at fault for the loss of that account, that user could sue. Today. Even without gold sales. The comedic scenario that the author uses to suggest that gold sales would result in a lawsuit by some kid and his grandmother is already possible. As unlikely as it is today, it is equally as unlikely in a world where Blizzard sells gold.Turning to taxes on *users* virtual income from normal activites in the game, which the author suggests is a major reason why selling gold would not happen, we see that it is equally unlikely to occur if Blizzard merely sells gold, and in fact is already possible under the author's logic. Keeping in mind that the premise is that Blizzard merely sells gold to users, the user would experience no taxable income event (excepting sales tax on the purchase itself). Blizzard, however, would have to pay taxes on the income from the sale, just like any other sale. The user will realize absolutely no taxable income from in-game activities because it is a one-way street. Now, the author suggests that having a dollar amount associated with an amount of gold would naturally lead to the potential for taxation on in-game gold even without any conversion (sale) into dollars. This is sensationalism at its best, "oh no! I will have to declare the gold I made from the icecrown dailies!" Not true. Think about it, if the author were correct, then we could *already* be taxed on the virtual profits we make. A market already exists for both Warcraft gold and Warcraft accounts. When you grind out dailys, you are creating something (gold) that has the potential to be sold. In fact, it already is sold. As the author rightly notes, sales of anything, whether in violation of a third-party contract or not, are taxable. The problem with the author's logic is that creating something of value is not a taxable event -- selling it is. You do not pay taxes on the vegetables you grow in your backyard and eat at your own table, even though a dollar amount can be attributed to the vegetables. You only pay taxes if you sell the vegetables. Likewise, if you were to sell your Icecrown daily profits to a gold farmer today, you would be responsible to report that as income (assuming it meets the threshhold, and after deducting the costs of your account). However, the potential to tax a sale of an item, like your vegatables, does not lead to a tax on the creation of that item.Now, if Blizzard were to both sell and purchase gold from users, then yes, the situation could change and become more like the Second Life situation where Warcraft gold would become more like a virtual currency. However, merely selling gold would not bring about the radical legal consequences that the author suggests.
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